Skye Root, AFM, AAC, is the founder and owner of Root Agricultural Advisory, where he manages and grows farmland portfolios throughout the Western United States. He is an approved American Society of Farm Manager and Rural Appraisers instructor, and has served on many of the Society’s boards and committees, including its Management/Consulting Education and Accreditation Committee.
The agricultural industry is ever evolving. Not only has the industry experienced paradigm shifts in technology and operational efficiencies, but the market for agricultural investment and management has shifted drastically over the past 30 years. From 2005-17, the number of global farmland investment firms increased from approximately 15 to more than 100. This proliferation has created an opportunity for farm managers to diversify their list of clients and asset owners on a global scale.
With a heightened interest in farmland as an asset class, geographically focused farm managers are primed to continue their function as strategic middlemen between asset owners and the operators. However, without a more modern, global perspective on farm management, local managers may lose out on the opportunity to add additional partners, both on the investor and absentee owner side.
Farm managers must continually stay abreast to agricultural innovation, especially in the reality of consistently tight markets and margins. According to the USDA, “Today, there is a wide new frontier for science and innovation in agriculture. There are many ways to grow food and fiber, and so much to learn about the science of growing crops. Modern farming is full of opportunities for agricultural partnerships with scientists in fields that range from biology to robotics.”
As the quest for sustainable profitability continues to drive agriculture forward, innovative farm managers must maintain a perpetual curiosity for incremental improvement. Would you want your farm manager or consultant stagnant in their skillset and knowledge base? Consider how much time you spend “learning” about improvements to your profession on an annual basis. Rural property professionals also need to learn continually about their profession.
In addition to baseline management education, farm managers could spend time learning about topics such as active soil management, precision agriculture, and agricultural technology including blockchain and artificial intelligence, just to name a few. On a personal note, I have invested years of continuing professional education into active soil management (including soil biology), agriculture-centric financial planning and analysis, negotiation strategy, and ag tech software. Each of these categories, while unrelated on the surface, has positioned my career and business to offer transformative improvements to landowners and operators alike.
The American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) offers consistent opportunities for farm managers and consultants to stay current and innovate with continuing professional education. Whether you are a farmer, an accredited farm manager, an accredited agricultural consultant, or a real estate broker looking for qualified continuing education, the ASFMRA aims to provide relevant coursework to meet your needs at a local and national level. Current offerings are held in-class, but work is being done to transition opportunities and content to an online platform.
Continuing professional education is important because it ensures you continue to be competent in your trade or profession. Farm management is no exception. Take the time to ensure you are a lifelong learner in your chosen profession. You will not regret it.